Magazine May 18, 2020, Issue

COVID Closes the Upright Citizens Brigade Theater

Horatio Sanz, Matt Besser, Ian Roberts, Amy Poehler, and Matt Walsh perform onstage at the Upright Citizens Brigade in New York City, June 26, 2015. (Gary Gershoff/WireImage)
An appreciation of New York’s endangered improv-comedy scene

You may not know it, but most of the laughs in modern American comedy were being put together years ago between 22nd and 29th Streets in Manhattan. Many of the best comedy performers that you see across HBO, Netflix, and what’s left of broadcast television, not to mention the writers working with them, did at least some time in New York’s improv-comedy scene. The institutions that sustain those laughs, like everything else dependent on the nightly take, are mortally ill because of COVID-19. 

Lots of great comedic actors were part of the Groundlings in Los Angeles, or of the Second City

This article appears as “The Day the Laughter Died” in the May 18, 2020, print edition of National Review.

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In This Issue



Books, Arts & Manners


The Week

The Week

GDP shrank 5 percent in the first quarter. Who says government can’t get anything done if it sets its mind to it?


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Let the Churches Speak

Let the Churches Speak

If politicians are starting to threaten religious institutions for internal decisions, maybe it’s time to challenge these erratic expression restrictions.